Real Scottish Weddings - Arniston House

October 17, 2023

"I'm so sorry, it's not my poncho," were the first words I spoke to Best Man Peter as he opened the door of Sycamore Cottage on the Arniston House Estate.

On the drive over from my home in Edinburgh, the rain had held off and had given me false hope that maybe the summer deluge that had plagued so many of my July weddings was over. How wrong I was.

The rain beat down heavily on my car as I arrived to the Groom's cottage. After getting partially soaked on my dash to get some ceremony pics before the guests arrived, I wasn't keen to repeat my mistakes. And that's when I saw it, my partner's poncho lying in the backseat. A garment I'd ridiculed for the best part of 5 years.

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Whilst Scottish weddings maybe have a higher chance of rain than in other countries, Ann & Jamie's wedding at Arniston House would prove to be one of the rainiest weddings I've ever attended. But with careful planning, quick decision making and a little bit of luck, the rain would prove to be the least memorable part of their wedding day.

Groom Preparations

Arniston House is situated just south of Edinburgh, near Gorebridge, and is surrounded by countryside and fields. It's impressive driveway leads up to the main house, passing several cottages along the way. It was in one of these cottages that groom, Jamie, was getting ready in.

The atmosphere in the groom's cottage was relaxed, with the boys joking and laughing over their bowtie tying skills, a certain plastic sgian dhu and the oathing stone that Ann & Jamie had picked up on a recent holiday. With only a few short minutes together, we made the most of it and headed outside to the drive way for some relaxed photos together once the rain offered a brief reprieve. The plan was to meet later, before the ceremony, to get all the grooms people together for photos. At least, that was the plan...groomsman Steven apparently didn't get the memo (or more accurately, the bus.)

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Bridal Preparations

Ann was getting ready with her bridesmaids and mum on the other side of Arniston Estate in the Gardener's Cottage.  The whole estate was lush, leafy green with beautiful trees lining the roads.

Inside the cottage itself was exciting atmosphere, with hair & make up well underway and music playing as everyone gathered in the kitchen, chatting away as makeup brushes and palettes covered the table.

Ann's beautiful wedding dress was from Whistles, and she paired her gorgeous outfit with a stunning cape-veil and statement necklace & earrings.

Each of Ann's bridesmaids helped her get ready. Lindsey was on dress duty, Katie the shoes and Kelly the cape, meaning each bridesmaid could cherish their contribution to helping Ann get ready. As a wedding photographer, these are some of the loveliest moments from bridal preparations and I would always recommend thinking about including this as part of any wedding day.

Another essential part of bridal prep has got to be a first look with a parent. This time we'd planned for two - one with dad, and one with mum. Remarkably, the rain stopped just in time for us to head out to the walled garden behind the cottage for some solo bridal photos and the first of the First Looks with Ann's dad.  

It's so important on any wedding day to make time for these photographs. In the rush of getting ready, especially when you've got to travel to your ceremony, it's so easy to miss out on getting photographs of just you in your wedding dress.

First Look

First Looks with me are always natural and the scenes, while staged, are always captured authentically. That means no repetition, no second chances. But it does mean setting them up correctly and talking through what's going to happen.

When Ann's dad, KY, arrived, I talked him through how we'd capture the first look - which involved placing a lot of trust in me, as he'd have to close his eyes as I held his hands and guided him through the gate, across the grass and into position. But it was all worth it for the look his face as he opened his eyes and saw his beautiful daughter as a bride for the very first time.

Complementing his joyful reaction, Ann's mum, Mindy, was overflowing with emotion and love when she turned around to see her daughter in their first look together. I'm not sure there was a dry eye between the three of us at the time. It was a truly special moment for the family, and one I'm sure no one will ever be able to forget.

On wedding days when your mum is often with you as you get ready - and maybe has already seen the dress - it can be so easy to dismiss needing a First Look with mum - but trust me, you'll not regret including these shots in your wedding photography.      

The Ceremony

The wedding ceremony was to take place in the stunning Orangery, beautifully decorated by The Daisy Chain florist with a gorgeous floral arch and bright, colourful flowers lining the long aisle. Natural light spilled in through tall windows, allowing for a bright, airy ceremony feel while still being indoors. As I positioned myself at the top of the aisle, Kim & Henny from the Arniston team prepared Ann & her bridesmaids ahead of the ceremony.

With the nerves mounting for Jamie, I got a few laughs from the guests as I straightened his bowtie not once, but twice as he waited for the ceremony to begin.

The Orangery at Arniston has a beautifully long aisle, perfect for photography but maybe not so much for nervous bridesmaids in high heels. At last the moment came when Ann made her grand entrance, and when Jamie turned around they met each other with beaming smiles and laughter.

Ann & Jamie's ceremony was beautifully conducted by celebrant Chris Lerpiniere, and began with a retelling the story of how they first met - and more importantly, to his utter embarrassment - how Jamie first introduced himself. "Loan, Jamie Loan. As in bank loan."

The happy couple were seated, facing their guests, as their story was told and Ann's dad and Jamie's mum gave readings. It was a really lovely way for them to feel a bigger part of their wedding ceremony, as so often couples stand and face each other or their celebrant for the whole duration and never get to see their families reactions.Ann & Jamie also chose to have their celebrant bless a circle around them as they exchanged personal vows over their oathing stone. It was a beautiful way to commemorate their love for each other.

During the ceremony, the rain got heavier, dashing our hopes for outdoor confetti. Fortunately for Ann & Jamie, Plan B was already in place so that we could do the confetti shot indoors within the Orangery.

It worked perfectly, and arguably even better as the Orangery has such a gorgeous interior.

The rain also prevented an outdoor whole guest group shot, so we had to get a little creative with the space we had and a wee step ladder.

As a wedding photographer, I know a whole guest group shot isn't the most fun experience for everyone, but I try to make it entertaining as I line people up and single out the ones trying to hide behind taller people. I like to do a nice formal one as well as a fun one where everyone can throw their arms in the air.

Once these shots were complete, the guests were directed across the lawn to the drinks reception taking place in the marquee.

Drinks Reception

As guests gathered under the marquee for fizz and canapes and I was on candid photography mode, the sun broke through the clouds and the rain stopped. After hours and hours of constant, heavy rain, we rushed out to seize the moment and get the family group shots done.

We also did a little bit of time travel, as groomsman Steven had been so late to the wedding he nearly missed the ceremony and we couldn't get the full shot of Jamie and his groomsmen when we'd planned. So we pretended it was an hour ago and the groomsmen all lined up together for shots that would later be rearranged to earlier in their gallery.

With the rain still holding off, we made the most of our luck and continued straight into newlywed couples portraits, which is not typically something I do immediately after group shots on a wedding as I want my couples to also get to spend time with their guests & enjoy their drinks reception.

To me, being a wedding photographer is about so much more than taking pictures - it's about ensuring your couple is having the best experience possible, and whilst I could photograph Ann & Jamie for hours on end, I know they want to spend time with their friends & family, to relax and sip some champagne and be present on their wedding day.

Whilst not everyone wants it to rain on their wedding day, as a Scottish photographer, I actually don't mind that much. Blue skies and sunshine are the enemy of any wedding photography, and the natural light after it's been raining can actually provide some of the best lighting opportunities.

Arniston House and its estate is such a wonderful place for newlywed couples portraits. There's such a variety to the landscape, with woodlands, rolling fields in the background, and of course the gorgeous Arniston House itself.

It's quite unique for an Edinburgh wedding venue as well, offering something distinct from the usual Castles and rustic barns.

For me, I want my couple's wedding photography to feel spontaneous and enjoyable, so that their experience feels unique to them. Capturing Ann & Jamie's love for each other was an effortless task though, as it was just so easy to catch those romantic looks, the laughter and smiles. Newlywed portraits are not only a chance for gorgeous romantic portraits, but to spend a few quiet & preciously private moments together in an otherwise busy day.

The Speeches & Evening Reception

The pre-dinner speeches were an emotional rollercoaster for Ann & Jamie, with the couple each making a speech as well as both dads and the best man.

The atmosphere under the canopy was of raucous laughter, highly charged emotional moments and a little bit of heckling from a certain relative. But it was when KY stood up to deliver his speech that Ann could no longer hold back the tears. Her dad's speech was a beautiful tribute to his daughter, whose determination and ambition had brought her to Scotland from her home in Malaysia.

After the wedding meal, Ann changed into a gorgeous champagne coloured glitzy dress for the evening reception and kicked off the party with a spectacular first dance with husband Jamie.

Before they launched into their dance, Jamie told me that they were planning just a wee shuffle around the dancefloor, while bridesmaid Katie told me that they had been instructed to join in with the dancing about 30 seconds in.

Well, as their photographer, I've enough experience to know that couples who plan a wee shuffle often only do a first twirl around 30 seconds in, and I'd hate to miss that moment if someone stepped in front of it. So I told Katie to update the instructions - and leave it at least 45 seconds before they joined the happy couple on the dancefloor.

Well I'm so glad I did that because minutes later, I came to realise that Jamie was an absolute liar. A so-called wee shuffle turned out to be a full on choreographed number,  with twists, twirls & dips!

It was such a fantastic way to kick off the evening's dancing, with band Bass Rock Ceilidh providing modern rock twists on many of the ceilidh numbers.

These guys really know how to get everyone rocking it out on the dancefloor, and it was so fun to see the Malaysian side learning our traditional dances and throwing themselves into the mayhem that is a Scottish wedding.

During the meal, it had begun to rain again, even more heavily than before - washing out any chance of golden hour couples photography. But the dramatic weather was great for the candid photographs of the dancing, with the stormy clouds above a great contrast to the warm, cosy interior of the marquee.

I didn't want Ann & Jamie to miss out on the evening couples shots though, especially with Ann's gorgeous new dress. So I set up my gear for some creative backlit shots outside once the rain cleared in the evening. The atmosphere was beyond perfect - the temperature reminiscent of late summer European nights just after a thunderstorm. In the distance, fog was rolling in across the fields. Night was setting in, but there was still a brightness in the sky. I always want to end a  gallery on a great photograph of the couple, and these were definitely an amazing way to end their day's wedding photography.

One thing I noticed while editing their wedding gallery, was that how little the rain impacted their photographs. Considering how much the rain impacted the day's events - from indoor confetti and delays to certain shots in the morning at the cottage, to my desperate need for a poncho - the gallery barely featured the rain at all. Indeed, you might even think I've exaggerated the amount of rainfall that day!

Maybe that's testament to the beautiful wedding venue of Arniston House, or how stunning Ann & Jamie are as a couple, or how fun the party was, or maybe it's that the best memories are made when you're surrounded by the people that you love.  


Wedding Venue: Arniston House

Wedding Dress: Whistles

Flowers:The Daisy Chain

Hair & Makeup: Circles Bridal Hair

Celebrant: Chris Lerpiniere (Sonder Celebrant

Kilts: MacGregor & MacDuff

Wedding Band: Bass Rock Ceilidh

Catering:The Pantry (Food) & Majestic Wines (Drinks)

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